Because of its ties to television, the most recent Oscar winner for Best Documentary Feature, “O.J.: Made in America,” is also a strong contender at the upcoming Emmys. This eight-hour long look at the live of the one-time football star was commissioned as a limited series by ESPN and was filmed in five parts. But how is it that a documentary can be both a feature film and a TV show. Turns out that wrinkles in the rules for these top kudos in their respective fields allow savvy producers to be eligible for both awards.
To qualify for the Oscars, a documentary feature must play for at least one week in both Los Angeles and New York cinemas, have at least four screenings per day with at least one of those in the evening, be advertised in at least one major newspaper in each city and be reviewed in either of the New York or Los Angeles Times.
Rule 10 of the eligibility criteria for the Emmys explicitly precludes “television programs that are offered for general theatrical exhibition occurring prior to their airing or Internet exhibition.” However, this rule goes on to note that “General theatrical release shall not include either or both:
(A) exhibitions made for purposes of fulfilling Award requirements (e.g. festival Awards, the Oscars) if such exhibition occurs only at one or more film festivals and/or in limited theatrical release of not more than seven days in not more than two (2) cities; and
(B) exhibitions made for the purpose of meeting “initial limited theatrical pre-release” requirements for foreign theatrical exhibition by a motion picture distributor or financier provided that evidence of the requirement for an initial limited theatrical release is acceptable to the Awards Committee and that theatrical exhibitions prior to the airing or Internet exhibition of the television program do not exceed an aggregate of up to seventy (70) days prior exhibitions in not more than ten (10) U.S. cities.